Hyunjin meets Changbin in a club on New Year’s Eve. He’s in the middle of the dancefloor, letting his body flow with the groovy bass of the music that’s shaking the building when the crowd briefly thins out, illuminating Changbin in all of his glory beneath the tacky neon lights. He’s several inches shorter than Hyunjin, but he looks like he could break Hyunjin in two if he wanted to and the thought sends a thrill through him. He pushes his way through the crowd until he can catch Changbin’s eye, tips him a smile that he knows few can resist, and by the time the DJ is shouting down the countdown to the new year, Hyunjin is on his knees in a grimy bathroom stall.
When he’s done, he pulls Changbin towards him and pushes his tongue into his mouth, making sure he can taste everything Hyunjin does.
“I’m Hyunjin by the way,” he says when they part.
Changbin chuckles, the sort of laugh someone gives into when they’ve witnessed something stupid but they’re endeared by it. He doesn’t want to know Hyunjin’s name. This is not the sort of encounter that asks for one. Hyunjin knows that, but he gave it anyway. He figures it’s only polite considering he had Changbin in his mouth a mere minute before.
“Changbin,” he offers after a moment.
It’s the last thing he says before they part ways. The bathroom door swings shut after him, leaving Hyunjin to stare at his ruffled reflection in the smudged mirrors over the sink. He rinses out his mouth and then returns to the dancefloor.
He doesn’t expect to see Changbin again after that night in the club. Just two weeks later, however, Hyunjin arrives at a house party that Song Mingi is throwing and meets Changbin’s eyes as soon as he steps foot on the front porch. He falters, the buzz from his pre-drinks not nearly enough to have prepared him for this moment, only to have Jisung bump into him.
“What are you holding up the queue for?” he grumbles, poking him in the side. “Don’t make me back out of this party at the last second. Not after I dragged myself all the way here.”
Despite his words, Hyunjin knows Jisung isn’t going to leave the party anytime soon. Sure, Jisung might despise house parties like the ones Song Mingi throws, but he also has a huge crush on this boy he’s been texting and Minho happens to love these kind of parties. So for the time being, Jisung does too.
Hyunjin’s eyes flicker back to Changbin’s for a moment. The other doesn’t betray any sign of recognising him and merely quirks an eyebrow in tandem with the exhale of his cigarette. Receiving the message well and clear, Hyunjin looks away and throws Jisung a bright smile.
“Just felt like it, of course,” he replies before he wraps an arm around Jisung’s waist. He plays it off as another teasing gesture rather than the offer of comfort it really is. Arm fastened around Jisung, he guides him over the threshold and into the chaos that awaits them. “C’mon, let’s go and grab a drink or two.”
Jisung grimaces. “Yay.”
Despite his trepidations, Jisung is all too happy to be whisked away by Minho half an hour later when he spots Jisung from across the room. Hyunjin watches him go with an obnoxious thumbs-up over Minho’s shoulder that his best friend flips off and then he throws himself in the party properly.
He likes parties like this. Likes being somewhere where the music is cranked up loud enough to blow out his eardrums and the alcohol never stops flowing and his feet never stop dancing. He’s a faerie in the Seelie Court, spinning around and around and around, his heart entwined with the music. He likes the weightlessness that parties give him, the way everything in his mind just grounds to a halt and focuses on the here and now. The hands on the small of his back, the burn of alcohol that spans the length of his throat, the mugginess of the air he shares with countless other strangers.
At one point, he finds himself on the outskirts of some complicated card game between some of the partygoers. If he leans back from where he perches on the kitchen countertop and cranes his head left, he has a direct line of sight to Jisung and where he sits with Minho, their knees pressed together and a laugh etched upon his lips. If he leans forward, he can insert himself into the next round of the game. He doesn’t bother. He just wants to watch for now.
Someone hoists themselves onto the counter next to Hyunjin. When he turns his head, he finds Changbin waiting patiently for his attention. His eyes aren’t nearly as sharp as they were earlier this evening, though Hyunjin thinks his jaw could give them a run for their money now. They drink Hyunjin in, committing every inch of him to memory.
“Hyunshik, is it?” he asks.
“No,” he says. He plans on leaving it there, but his mouth opens anyway to clarify, “It’s Hyunjin.”
Changbin hums, repeating the name under his breath. It sounds like a promise of more to come. Hyunjin’s fingers twitch sideways.
“I didn’t know you knew Mingi,” says Changbin after a moment.
He shrugs. “I don’t. Not really. But he’s my senior at Dance Soc so I was invited.”
“Sometimes. Most of the time, I’m memorising the lines of a script.” He takes a sip of the drink in his hand, the bitter burn singeing his tongue. “I’m a Drama student. What about you?”
Changbin’s a man of few words, it seems. It doesn’t really matter to Hyunjin either way. Not when after a few more minutes of passive small talk, Changbin hops down from the countertop and reminds Hyunjin that he never repaid the favour from New Year’s Eve. Hyunjin looks at him from his sprawl and thinks about how pretty Changbin looks when he’s gazing up at him.
“How do I look?” Jisung says frantically, bursting out of his crappy little en suite bathroom to present himself for Hyunjin’s judgement. “Is this okay or will it have Minho running for the hills?”
There’s nothing outlandish enough about Jisung’s outfit for that to happen. He’s wearing an oversized Supreme t-shirt that he recently bought and very pointedly declared as being off-limits to Hyunjin as well as a pair of black skinny jeans with a modest rip at each knee. A silver chain wrapped around his anklet glints under the yellow lighting of his dorm room and a pair of small matching hoops adorn his ears. He looks fine. Hyunjin tells him as such.
“Although I’d tuck in your t-shirt,” he adds after a moment, cocking his head to the side. “Loosely though, you know what I mean? Your waist is nice, we might as well draw Minho’s attention to it.”
“You’re so fucking right,” Jisung says, immediately hastening to do just that. “I need him to want me enough to date me permanently. Might as well show him what I have to offer.”
Hyunjin rolls his eyes, but he laughs all the same. “It’s not like your waist is somehow going to make it or break it for you two. Minho likes you, anyone can see that. And it’s not for your body, it’s for all the rest of what you have to offer.”
“Are you trying to say my body isn’t sexy?” Jisung demands.
“That’s exactly what I’m saying.”
Jisung throws the nearest thing he can grab his hands on at Hyunjin. It happens to be an intensively hydrating moisturiser which Hyunjin applies to his face with an obnoxious thank you, I was actually eyeing that up for a while. He pats down his cheeks as Jisung fusses over his reflection.
Rolling his eyes again, he says, “You’re fine. Stop stressing out about it, your date will go well.”
“You don’t know that.” Jisung stops his panicking all the same and collapses onto the bed. “It’s just… I think I really like him, Hyunie. I want our first date to go well.”
He has no doubt about that. Ever since Jisung met Minho, the older boy has been pretty much all that occupies Jisung’s mind. He’s written songs about his feelings for him, has waxed poetic to Hyunjin many a time and the two message each other nonstop. He’s even stopped mentioning that one guy in his lectures he used to have a bit of a schoolboy crush on.
In a different situation, Hyunjin might take this opportunity to tease Jisung about falling head over heels for someone yet again – Jisung has never been one to just fancy someone, he never does anything by halves – but he knows this isn’t the moment for it.
“Don’t worry about all the ways it might go wrong,” he says instead, carding a hand through Jisung’s hair. “If you get caught up in your head, then you won’t be able to enjoy the magic of the moment. At the end of the day, what happens happens and it’s up to you to make the most of the date. Don’t think about what ifs when you can shape actual events.”
Jisung hums, pushing his head further into Hyunjin’s hand. “That was actually quite profound, Hyunjin, I’m impressed.” His tone lacks any of its usual snarkiness. He sighs. “Boys are so unnecessarily stressful, don’t you think?”
“They can be,” Hyunjin agrees.
“I'm so tired of it, honestly. But anyways - speaking of boys, how are things going with your one? Have you asked him out on a date yet?”
He pauses in his ministrations, confused. “What boy? What date?”
Jisung rolls onto his side to better deliver the unimpressed quirk of his eyebrow. He has it down to a T and Hyunjin has always hated that. Few things were more annoying than a teenage Jisung raising a single smug eyebrow at you and he still has trauma attached to the sight.
“Don’t act like you don’t know who I’m on about,” he says. “You’ve hooked up with Seo Changbin at pretty much every party or night out we’ve had since January. It’s March in six days. Who else would I be talking about?”
“Changbin’s not my boy,” says Hyunjin. “We just like hooking up sometimes. That’s all.”
Jisung looks unconvinced. “Did you hear the part where I said every party or night out? Because I think you might’ve missed it.”
“I’m the one sucking him off,” Hyunjin says dryly, “so I really don’t think I did.”
He sits up with a frown. “And you’re okay with that? With hooking up whenever you get drunk and not doing anything else? Because if you ask me, that doesn’t seem very healthy.”
Hyunjin shrugs. Maybe it’s not. Maybe it is. Who is anyone else to decide that? He knows Jisung doesn’t mean any harm by it and is only speaking from a place of concern, but Hyunjin knows what he’s doing. He doesn’t want to pursue anything more with Changbin and lord knows Changbin doesn’t want the same. He barely knows the guy.
Well, aside from his –
“Fuck, I’ve got to go!” Jisung swears, shooting up from the bed in a flurry of movement. He blows through the room like a hurricane, scrambling to collect all of his last minute bits and bobs before he slams the door open. Within seconds, the only person left in the room is Hyunjin.
He doesn’t mean to start hooking up with Changbin regularly. It’s just that their social circles overlap a lot and they always end up at the same parties. Sometimes Jisung is there to keep him company and sometimes he’s not; either way, it’s only a matter of time before Hyunjin or Changbin seek each other out. There’s just something so intoxicating about Changbin’s presence. No one manages to get him off quite as well as the older.
Changbin reminds him of the love interests in the stories Hyunjin has always loved to read. Dark and mysterious, a brooding visage, incredibly closed-off at first glance and meeting. He’s obsessed with the hard set of Changbin’s jaw as he jerks Hyunjin off, obsidian eyes trained on him as Hyunjin moans obscenely beneath his touch. The bruising kisses he crushes against Hyunjin’s mouth, the teeth that sink into his bottom lip, the copper tinge that passes between their tongues and stains the edges of their teeth. He loves the way Changbin knows exactly where he wants Hyunjin to be and what he wants him to do; the hands that fix his head in place, pulling at his hair while Hyunjin makes use of his mouth, the way he drags him up for a searing kiss afterwards. The way he pushes Hyunjin into the nearest private corner in the first place, reaching for his ass or down his pants.
He’s like granite rock, hard and immovable, and Hyunjin is deliciously helpless to the force of his will.
This time around they’ve managed to steal themselves a bedroom so rather than a quick job in the bathroom, they take their sweet time. Hyunjin finds himself sprawled across the bed, his jeans and boxers torn away, while Changbin works him open. His mind is all hazy and he’s hardly aware of whatever words fall out between the whines coming from the back of his throat and when he opens his eyes, Changbin is staring intently at him.
Even as drunk as they are, there’s no mistaking the determined glint in Changbin’s gaze and it lights another spark of arousal in Hyunjin. He maintains eye contact with Changbin and lets out his most obscene noise yet, trapped high in the back of his mouth.
Changbin’s hand darts back to wrap around his thigh, one on each side, and drags him closer. Hyunjin jerks down the bed with a delighted laugh. When Changbin climbs on top of him, he loops his arms around his neck and pulls him in until they’re breathing the same air.
“Eager much?” he murmurs.
Changbin’s voice is rough when he scoffs, “Like you can talk. I barely have to look at you and you’re already a mess.”
Far from being offended by this, Hyunjin only shrugs. It’s pretty much the truth. Whenever he enters these parties and catches sight of Changbin, it takes everything in him not to pounce on him there and then. He doesn’t last very long before he seeks him out.
“Don’t you want to see how much of a mess you can really make me?” he asks coyly. This is uncharted territory for them, but he can’t stop himself from diving forward anyway. He wants to experience all of what Changbin has to offer his body, not just a quick handjob in the bathroom. “You like seeing what effect you have on me, don’t you? Show me what you can do and I’ll give you one hell of a show.”
Changbin rolls his eyes. “What a typical Drama student,” he grunts, but he slams their mouths together all the same.
Somewhere between Hyunjin’s nineteenth birthday and fucking out the stress of their respective mid-terms, they exchange numbers. They don’t really text much aside from confirming whether the other person is attending a party that night and to make sure they’ve gotten home safe afterwards.
One time Hyunjin accidentally sends Changbin a meme he was meant to text Jisung. Changbin leaves the message on read.
Sometime in mid-April, Minho breaks up with Jisung and Jisung is heartbroken. When he turns up to Hyunjin’s flat in tears, Hyunjin is in half a mind to hunt down the dance major and make him shed enough tears to match until Jisung manages to eventually get out that it was, for all intents and purposes, an amicable break-up. It’s not that Minho doesn’t like Jisung, he just doesn’t like him enough. At least, not enough to string him along with a relationship that he doesn’t have his heart in when Jisung deserves more. Jisung agreed to part ways as friends and then promptly made his way to Hyunjin’s apartment to cry into his arms and wonder why he can’t be enough.
Truth be told, Hyunjin still wants to punch Minho, but now’s not the right time.
They change into some of Hyunjin’s rattiest and most comfortable pyjamas, order enough pizza and fried chicken to feed a small nation, and binge-watch episodes of Running Man until Jisung falls asleep mid-sentence. His cheeks are still sticky with the remnants of heartbreak so Hyunjin quietly wipes them clean before clearing away the rubbish from their takeout. He cracks open the window a hair to let in fresh air and then crawls into bed beside Jisung, slotting into position around his much smaller frame.
He thinks about how cruel life must be to deny Jisung his shot at a proper romance. He’s the sort of guy who sees beauty in the dullest things and absorbs the world with an unbridled wonder that belies his snarky nature. He likes love stories that begin with just a glance across the room and end with a long dramatic kiss, the camera panning out to show how, for one snapshot of time, this pair of ordinary people are the focus of the entire universe. And he really thought he had that with Minho.
When he was younger, Hyunjin was the same. The older he grew, however, the more he became fascinated with the murkier tales of romance. Ones where things don’t just inevitably fall into place but stories that unravel over years of turning around the wrong corners and meeting the wrong people. Where people make mistakes, some of them ugly and some of them small, but all of them human. He likes how human mistakes can be, how love can be dramatic and all-encompassing but also something that lurks in the ordinary. He’s fascinated by all of the ugly bits that can make up a person and how they bleed beneath the personas they wear proudly.
Eventually, he thinks he’ll want a relationship like the ones Jisung’s after. Someone who makes him feel light inside, like he’s floating on top of the world. But right now he’s just nineteen years old and he has the rest of his life ahead of him. He doesn’t want a happily ever after, he just wants someone to test the limits his body will bend to.
He just wants Changbin.
“What do you want to be when you’re older?” Hyunjin asks.
There’s a huff of laughter behind him. “Is this really,” Changbin grunts, his breath landing somewhere onto the bunched up fabric of Hyunjin’s t-shirt, “the time for small-talk?”
Probably not, no. They’re in the disabled toilet in a club in Itaewon and Hyunjin’s jeans are somewhere on the floor behind him. He’s gripping onto the plastic handle that runs the length of the wall beneath the sink, chips of blue paint flaking onto his palms, and Changbin’s hips are slamming into him. His belt buckle hits the back of Hyunjin’s thighs with every thrust.
Usually, he’d only have the presence of mind to goad him on with a few flirty remarks, but there’s an obnoxious pastel poster that’s level with Hyunjin’s eyes and it features a funky girl hoisting a sign that says YOUR FUTURE BEGINS NOW. So now all he can think about is how he doesn’t know anything about Changbin’s future or anything that doesn’t involve these quick racy moments on nights out. He doesn’t know who Changbin’s friends are or whether he has any siblings or what he likes to eat when he’s not drinking himself into oblivion.
“Just answer the damn question,” Hyunjin pants.
He can almost hear him roll his eyes. For a moment, it doesn’t seem like he is going to reply, but then he says, “I want to produce music. Why do you think I study what I do?”
“I think I want to be a teacher,” Hyunjin replies. The words melt into a long moan as Changbin angles his hips just right and his mind whites out for a second. When he can think coherently again, he tacks on, “I used to think I’d want to act professionally, but the older I get the more – ah, shit, right there, right there – the more I think I just want to – fuck – pass on my love for it instead.”
“Nice to know,” Changbin says in a tone that says he doesn’t really care.
They continue their tryst in their usual manner, not many words exchanged aside from the occasional instruction. Hyunjin’s legs start to get tired and he slumps forward even more, his cheek pressed to the plastic handle. A soft curse leaves Changbin’s mouth as he struggles to adjust to the new position.
“Do you have any siblings or anything?” Hyunjin asks after a moment.
Changbin laughs again, though it’s much harsher this time. “Don’t make me think about my sister when I’m in the middle of fucking you, that’s so fucking weird.”
“I’m just curious.”
“Why? It’s not like we’re dating or anything.”
“I don’t know, Changbin, maybe it’s because you’re literally in my ass right now. We’re sleeping with each other every few days, you’d think it’d be normal to – shit, I’m close, I’m close – don’t, don’t stop,” he grits out.
He clings onto the plastic handle so tightly he thinks it’ll come clean off the wall. Changbin picks up his pace. When they’re done, Hyunjin grabs a few tissues from the toilet roll and wipes himself clean with a grimace. Changbin silently sorts himself out next to him and then glances at his watch.
“I should probably go, Wooyoung will be wondering where I’ve disappeared to.” He bends down to grab Hyunjin’s jeans and hands them over to him, lifting an eyebrow. The sight is so infuriating that Hyunjin decides he officially hates the gesture on anyone and everyone. “Wooyoung’s my best friend if you were wondering.”
Hyunjin pours himself back into his jeans and wrestles the button close. “Mine is Jisung. You might’ve seen him around sometimes.”
Changbin nods. “Han Jisung, right? Chan’s little stray?” When Hyunjin visibly bristles at the term, he holds up his hands in surrender. “Hey, hey, I didn’t mean that in a bad way. It’s just that I know Chan’s taken him under his wing nowadays. Says the kid has a lot of talent for someone who studies Social Sciences.”
“He does,” Hyunjin says tersely.
“I believe you.”
Their conversation naturally peters out there. The two of them exit the toilets together, ignoring the scandalised look a pair of passing girls throw each other when they emerge into their paths, and then part ways when they reach the bar. A boy Hyunjin has seen drop into the occasional Dance Soc meeting pulls Changbin into a hug with an obnoxious yell of his name. Hyunjin watches them for a moment and then turns away, seeking a drink to wash away the dryness in the back of his throat.
[02:03] INNIE INNIE INNIE LOOK AT THE CUTEST DOG IN THE WORLD I LUV HIM SO MUCH I’M GONNA CRY <333
[02:04] oh shit sorry that was meant for my brother!!! ignore my message!!!
[03:11] this one is cuter
Hyunjin and Changbin still aren’t friends, but things begin to shift after that night in Itaewon. They send a few tentative texts in between the usual check-ins, mostly memes that they think the other might find funny as well as the stereotypical uni student complaints about lectures being boring and just wanting to sleep right through them. Changbin is still a mystery that is yet to be solved, but Hyunjin thinks he might be collecting some clues about him.
They’re chattier in person too. Granted, the majority of their time together still revolves around getting someone off and at one point, Hyunjin goes out for this sole purpose so much that Jisung ends up staging an intervention, but they talk a little too. Hyunjin asks how Changbin’s day has been and Changbin does that little laugh of his, like he’s indulging someone in something he finds a little ridiculous but endearing all the same, and then answers honestly. He listens to Hyunjin’s rambles, even when they’re spilling into his mouth as Changbin’s hand does all the work below and he’d probably rather Hyunjin would just shut the fuck up.
He listens far more than Hyunjin expects him to, that’s for sure. During one drunken night’s rambling, Hyunjin offhandedly mentions a textbook he’s expected to buy for one of his lectures, a monstrosity that is being sold for a price that will for sure have him plummet into his overdraft. He’s complaining for the sake of complaining really because if there’s one thing Hyunjin is, it’s dramatic. Sure, he cares about it, but what else can he do?
The following afternoon, a delivery arrives for Hyunjin. He unwraps it to find a brand new edition of the textbook his Medieval Theatre lecturer is forcing them to buy. He knows for a fact none of his friends can afford to just buy something like that for him and there’s only one other person he’s complained about the textbook to.
“Yeah?” Changbin says by way of greeting when he picks up Hyunjin’s call.
Hyunjin doesn’t care much for niceties either. He dives right into business. “Are you the one who bought my textbook?”
“Maybe I am. You were complaining about not being able to afford it last night, weren’t you?”
Irritation flares sharply in Hyunjin. His fingers tighten around the edges of his phone.
“I’m not – “ He lowers his voice into a hiss. “I’m not a fucking charity case, alright? Just because I say I can’t afford something doesn’t mean you have to buy it for me.”
“I don’t see why not. You said you couldn’t afford it and I could. A plus B equals C.”
“That’s not how maths works, asshole. And that’s not the fucking point either.”
“Just accept the damn gift, Hyunjin,” Changbin says sharply. The tone is one he hasn’t ever used before and Hyunjin absolutely hates the fact that, instead of angering him further, his body’s first instinct is to be turned on by it. “I’ve already paid for it and I’m not taking it back. So you either keep the textbook or you chuck it in the fucking bin for all I care. It’s your call.”
“You’re a real prick, you know that?” he snaps.
Before he can lose his temper – or god forbid, let his dick do the talking for him and goad Changbin even further – he hangs up the call and tosses his phone onto the bed. It lands next to the shiny new textbook that rests innocently upon his duvet covers.
Hyunjin looks at it with some trepidation. It’s not that buying the textbook was a rude move for Changbin to make; it’s that Hyunjin doesn’t know what it means. It’s one thing to find out that Changbin likes watching horror movies. It’s another thing for him to buy Hyunjin a textbook that’s worth a week’s worth of his wages without second thought.
He doesn’t know why Changbin would do something like that for him. They’re not friends, they’re barely acquaintances. Hyunjin doesn’t know how to define what they are, he just knows that it has him feeling so fucking good that he doesn’t care enough to ask. Looking at the textbook, however, makes him want to ask. If only so he can figure out why his stomach is in knots at the sight of it.
The image that Hyunjin has of Changbin belongs in a very specific kind of place and setting in his mind. Shadowy lighting and dark corners, the sky outside smudged black with the night, the smell of cigarettes clinging onto chapped lips and smooth skin. An arm secured around Hyunjin’s waist, hot breath ghosting underneath the lobe of his ear. The somewhat surreal landscape of Seoul’s night-scene, one where Changbin is more smoke and mirrors than something tangible.
Changbin doesn’t exist when Hyunjin is sober. At least, not outside of the parameters of their sparse text messages.
Which is why when Hyunjin hangs up his call with Jisung after Jisung reaches his seminar classroom, turns to grab the drink he’s ordered at the Starbucks he’s in and finds Changbin waiting next to him for his own, he freezes.
“Hwang Hyunjin?” repeats a tired-looking barista, holding his caramel frappe in the air like it’s a piece of used tissue she can’t wait to get rid of. “Caramel frappe for Hwang Hyunjin?”
Hyunjin’s eyes are still wide and fixed on Changbin’s.
He raises an eyebrow and slowly inclines his head in the direction of the barista. “I think that’s for you.”
“Right,” he says, finally blinking. Once, twice, several times in a row.
He steps forward and hastily collects his drink. Uncomfortably aware of Changbin’s gaze boring into him from the side, he busies himself with dusting extra chocolate onto his whipped cream and pretends like he doesn’t notice his stare. For some reason, he can't wrap his mind around the existence of Changbin in daylight hours. It’s thrown his entire universe off by a few inches.
He’s about to leave without a farewell when a new voice breaks him out of his daze. “Oh wait, I know you! You’re in Dance Soc, aren’t you?”
Taken aback, Hyunjin snaps his head sideways to find a boy with blonde hair and a pretty smile by Changbin’s side, facing his way. His friend, Hyunjin presumes, noticing the arm he has hooked around Changbin’s elbow. It takes him a couple of seconds to realise he’s the one being addressed.
“Oh!” he says. “Yes, I am. Uh, sorry, but I don’t – I don’t think I’ve seen you around before though?”
“Oh no, I didn’t join this year, I was too shy. But I remember seeing you in the charity performance last month, you were really good. You’re fucking talented man, is Dance your major?”
“He studies Drama,” Changbin says before Hyunjin can answer.
Pretty Boy isn’t the only one surprised by his interjection. Baffled, Hyunjin can only throw him a probing glance which Changbin promptly ignores. His face is carefully devoid of any expression; at a push, Hyunjin might call him bored. It only serves to confuse Hyunjin even more. He doesn’t know how to interact with a Changbin like this. One who isn’t reaching for him with eager hands, who isn’t kissing up Hyunjin’s collarbones.
It’s so weird seeing him in proper lighting. The late May sunshine streams in through the wide floor-to-ceiling windows to illuminate him in full technicolour. His hair sweeps across his forehead in a jet-black absence of colour and the forward jut of his jaw is sharp and prominent. His lips, pink and full and tilted downwards, sit below the strong slope of his nose. His shoulders are broad beneath the fabric of his white Hugo Boss t-shirt and his arms bulge against the confines of its sleeves. Hyunjin’s heart races at the sight.
Changbin is fucking hot. He’s known it for months now, but holy fucking shit, he looks even better in proper lighting. Hyunjin wants him to drag him into a corner somewhere and take Hyunjin apart until he has tears in his eyes. Holy fucking shit.
“I didn’t know you two knew each other,” says Pretty Boy.
Changbin shrugs. He meets Hyunjin’s eyes, a smirk unfurling on his lips. “We see each other around sometimes.”
Well, that’s one way of putting it.
“Oh right,” Pretty Boy says. His eyes flicker between Hyunjin and Changbin and then brighten in what looks like understanding. He doesn’t say anything, however, only extends a hand to Hyunjin and adds, “Well, since I’m the only person left out of the loop here, I might as well introduce myself. I’m Felix, nice to meet you.”
Hyunjin’s attention snaps back to Pretty Boy in surprise. Felix is not a very common name in Seoul. He’s only heard of one Felix in his entire time growing up in Korea and that one happens to be the cute classmate Jisung sometimes gushes about after his lectures. He took a short break when he was dating Minho, but the start of June saw the comments return.
He squints at Felix, trying to search for something. Felix’s features shift uncertainly and Hyunjin catches a glimpse of freckles beneath his makeup – the same ones Jisung has described to him in vivid detail.
(Each time this happens, Hyunjin can't help but ask him whether he’s sure it’s just a small crush he has on Felix because that level of passion is just not normal if it is. Jisung tends to smack him with the nearest object in response when he does.)
Remembering that Felix is expecting an answer, Hyunjin fumbles for his retreating hand and hurriedly offers, “I’m Hyunjin. Nice to meet you. What do you study?”
“Social Sciences,” he says, smiling brightly. Jesus Christ, Jisung was right when he said it’s a nice one.
“Oh, that’s nice. My best friend actually studies Social Sciences too.” Jisung better thank him for this, he swears to god. “I’m not sure whether you know him, he’s called Han Jisung?”
A curious blush dusts Felix’s face. “Oh! Uh, I think – I think I might’ve seen him around sometimes. We don’t really talk much though.”
“You should, he’s a cool guy. Not as cool as me, of course, but close enough.”
Felix laughs and wow, Jisung wasn’t lying about that either. “I’ll keep that in mind.”
Hyunjin is about to add something else, trying to be a good wingman for his best friend, but it is that moment that the barista chooses to announce Changbin’s drink. The conversation naturally cuts short there as Changbin turns to accept it, but Hyunjin still lingers beside them for a reason unknown to even himself. He offers Felix an awkward goodbye in response to his finger-guns and then turns to give Changbin a look, searching for something in his eyes.
Whatever it is, he doesn’t find it. Changbin is still impassive when he regards Hyunjin, the tip of his straw resting on his bottom lip. As he brushes past Hyunjin to leave, however, his hand briefly squeezes Hyunjin’s hip.
“I’ll see you around,” he murmurs, just low enough for him to catch.
Hyunjin’s breath stumbles in his throat. “Yeah,” he manages to whisper, long after the moment has passed and Changbin is gone. “See you.”
Summer holidays arrive and the nights out trickle down to a stop. Hyunjin packs up all of his things and moves out of his student accommodation, taking the train home to the other side of Seoul. Things are much slower in his neighbourhood with the most exciting event being bingo night down at the community centre. Hyunjin volunteers with his younger brother Jeongin just because it’s an old habit from when he was racking up volunteering hours for his university application, but it’s not like it’s particularly riveting this time around either.
With no parties to tether them together, Changbin and Hyunjin find themselves texting each other less and less until several days go by with radio silence on both ends. Inexplicably, Hyunjin finds himself missing Changbin. Not just the feel of his body as it rocked against Hyunjin’s, but the other things too.
The way he appeared like he didn’t care but still paid attention to every word that left Hyunjin’s mouth. The amused puffs of laughter that he snorted out of his mouth. The soothing swipe of his fingers against Hyunjin’s skin when they both reached release and he realised he’d gripped onto Hyunjin tight enough to bruise. Sure, Changbin isn’t the stuff of romance novels, but he’s enough to have Hyunjin hooked and being apart from him for so long leaves him restless.
On one particularly difficult night, he gives in and calls Changbin. “You live in Seoul right?” he says without preamble the second the call connects him through,
There’s a pause and then Changbin answers, with audible confusion. “Yes.”
Another pause. And then, “Apgujeong-dong. Why?”
Hyunjin nearly drops his phone. “Apgujeong-dong?“ he shrieks. He remembers that his parents are just two rooms over and rushes to lower his voice. “What the fuck, why do you live there?”
“I don’t know, maybe because my parents bought our house here? The fuck is it to you anyways.”
Things make so much more sense now. Why Changbin dresses so expensively, why he orders drinks at bars like his bank account will never run dry. Hyunjin recalls the textbook Changbin bought for him a few months ago – brand spanking new, the latest edition, first class same day delivery. That thing wasn’t cheap, but Changbin bought it for him like it was nothing. It took a lot for Hyunjin to swallow his pride and accept the gift, but damn, if he’d known that Changbin lives in fucking Apgujeong-dong of all places, he would never have argued with him over it.
Shaking himself out of it, Hyunjin tries to recall why he called Changbin in the first place.
“Listen,” he says, his voice hushed as he curls up in his bed. He plays with a loose thread at the hem of his t-shirt. “I’m just going to cut right to it. I miss going out to drink in a good club and I miss fucking you afterwards. If you’re up for it, I’ll meet you somewhere for a few drinks tonight. I can tell my parents I’m sleeping over at Jisung’s and then get him to cover for me. If not, I’ll just jerk off like usual and we can forget this conversation ever happened. What do you say, are you up for it or not?”
For the third time in their conversation, all is silent on Changbin’s end of the call. Hyunjin waits patiently for the verdict, still pulling on that loose thread.
“I’m not going to bring you back to my house,” Changbin says finally. “You’re not my boyfriend so I’m not risking my parents seeing you.”
“I wasn’t asking you to.”
“But I can book a room in a hotel near campus,” he continues. “And I know that GLOW has a good deal on drinks tonight.”
A broad smile spreads across Hyunjin’s face. “Sounds good to me.”
“Alright. I’ll see you in a bit then.”
“See you,” he sings out.
He hangs up the call and then texts Jisung.
It’s different this time.
It makes sense. Even though Hyunjin usually goes out with the intent to find Changbin, he still manages to dress it up under the guise of going out to party and then coincidentally running into Changbin there. What follows when he does is just mere happenstance. But this time, he’s going out to specifically get drinks with Changbin. To dance in a club with Changbin and to then go back to a hotel room and sleep with Changbin. There’s nothing coincidental about it.
Being in a hotel room changes things as well. Rather than having a quickie in a grimy corner somewhere, Changbin lays Hyunjin out on a bed with clean, expensive sheets that smell like perfume and feel like silk against his bare skin. He’s still eager for the main course, he’s just not frenzied. And even though he still takes charge and directs Hyunjin as he sees fit, it’s not so much desperation as it is a deliberate sense of control that has Hyunjin’s heart racing and his body burning up with desire.
He wants Changbin so fucking much. He can’t get enough of him. Luckily, tonight he doesn’t need to be left wanting and so he’s not. The two of them reach for each other more often than not and by the time Hyunjin passes out, he’s boneless and satisfied enough to last the rest of the summer.
Somehow, he finds himself in the same room a week later.
This time around, it’s Changbin who rings Hyunjin, offering to take him out. They eat fried chicken at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant and then buy a round or two of drinks to wash it down. It’s barely a fraction of the intoxicated they usually get in these situations, but neither of them care. Hyunjin finds the night is all the more memorable for it. Each detail stays crisp in his mind’s eye: the creamy skin of Changbin’s chest looming above him, the bulge of his muscles as he grips onto the headboard for balance, the heat of his breath on Hyunjin’s face.
Hyunjin doesn’t ramble during sex this time around, he’s too into the moment for that, but afterwards Changbin wipes him down and they fall asleep in the middle of passing mindless conversation. When Hyunjin wakes up the next morning, Changbin has an arm hooked around his waist. He has a brief moment to think I could get used to this before he closes his eyes and falls asleep again.
“I’m going to Jisung’s house tonight,” Hyunjin says at breakfast. He spears a cherry tomato with his fork and tosses it into his mouth. “I’ll probably stay over so don’t wait up for me.”
His mother hums, not looking up from where she’s preparing today’s lunch. “You’ve been staying over at Jisung’s a lot lately.”
He shrugs. “I guess I just miss having him around.”
“He lives three streets away,” she points out, but all Hyunjin does is flash her a smile, his teeth stained red with tomato juice. She returns it and then runs a knife through the fat of a chicken breast. “It’s interesting though. How you manage to stay over so much without Jisung’s mother ever seeing you in her house or in her son’s room.”
She looks up to raise an eyebrow at him, challenging him to deny it. Hyunjin’s hatred for the gesture increases tenfold.
“I can explain,” he says and then stops there.
So maybe he can’t explain. In his defence, it’s not his fault. How the hell is he meant to openly admit to his own mother that he’s been sneaking out to another district of Seoul purely to toss back a few drinks and spend the night fucking a boy he’s not dating? The thought is absolutely mortifying.
His mother makes the decision for him. “As long as you keep your phone turned on and don’t get anyone pregnant, I don’t care.”
“Trust me, that’s not going to happen,” he assures her, his face flaming a vivid shade of red.
“Well then we can pretend this conversation never happened,” she replies. “And I won’t bring it up to your dad either. It can stay our little secret for now.”
His cheeks will never recover from this. “Thank you, eomoni. I’m sorry for lying to you.”
“Eh, you’re nineteen years old. It happens. God only knows what I got up to when I was your age."
She laughs, waving a dismissive hand through the air. Hyunjin eats another cherry tomato and tries not to melt into his chair.
[11:31] it’s so sunny today!!! absolutely in love with this weather, aren’t u???
[12:01] ehh it’s alright
[12:01] i prefer autumn though, it’s much milder and it’s cosier
[12:02] omg autumn’s my favourite season too!!!
[12:02] twinsiesss ✌️
[12:03] don’t call us twins when i literally sucked you off the other day
[12:04] oh shit yeah LMAO
[12:04] bestiessss* ✌️
[12:08] ur being noncholant on the outside but ik ur overflowing with love on the inside
[12:10] and sure, if it helps you sleep at night, feel free to think that way
As the summer holidays drag on, Hyunjin collects more clues about the mystery that is Seo Changbin. Here are a few of them:
- He sleeps with a Munchlax plushie every night. It’s because he doesn’t have this plushie that Hyunjin wakes up to Changbin’s arm around him every morning after they meet up.
- He raps. Like insanely well. Hyunjin isn’t sure how he manages to breathe when he’s spitting out that many syllables in so few seconds, but he never misses a beat when he does. He also sings sometimes.
- He wants to get sleeve tattoos, but his parents would never let him do it while he’s under their roof. They don’t let him do many things apparently.
- He’s incredibly slow at getting ready. Even if he wakes up earlier than Hyunjin, he’ll be done well after Hyunjin has showered, dressed and read through all of his notifications. Hyunjin isn’t even sure what he does that takes him so long, it’s just something that happens.
- His real laugh is high and pronounced. They can be written out in clear hahahahas and they fill an entire room when he lets them loose.
Discovering all of these things about Changbin is strange. It’s like there are two versions of him who coexist in Hyunjin's mind. There is the one he is most familiar with, the one who cups his hand around Hyunjin’s jaw and traces his spit-slick lips with his thumb, a dark look in his eye like he already mentally undressed Hyunjin the second he saw him. This is the Changbin who exists underneath flashing strobe lights and in dimly lit hallways, who only speaks to encourage Hyunjin to stretch back his legs just a little bit more, go on, you know you can do this for me.
Then there is the Changbin who exists in the soft glow of the morning sun. The one who buys him pancakes for breakfast and listens to Hyunjin’s rambles with thoughtful little nods, who taps his fingers against the table in a rhythm he’s cooked up in his head. He tosses Hyunjin sleepy smiles and presses his fingers against the mole under Hyunjin’s eye and walks him to the train station to see him off. He texts him memes in the middle of the night and takes pictures of random things he’s spotted throughout his day – a lone sock on the branch of a tree, a tiny bird zipping around his garden, the empty slot in his family’s chandelier where a crystal used to hang.
As much as Hyunjin likes the Changbin who knows his body inside out, he also likes the other one too. The disconnect between the two fascinates him and he wants to discover more, wants to unravel Changbin until he knows exactly what makes him tick, what makes him so different from anyone else.
“So you fancy him then,” says Jisung when Hyunjin tries to explain this to him.
Hyunjin tosses a popcorn kernel at his chin. “I don’t fancy him. I just… find him interesting, that’s all.”
“You’ve been messing around with him for like eight months,” he points out. “Like exclusively. I mean, I don’t know about him, but I know for a fact that you haven’t slept with anyone else. And not only that, but you guys go on breakfast dates. You get fucking waffles and strawberries together. You know who used to get waffles and strawberries together? Me and Minho. And I was dating the guy.”
“I thought you were over Minho,” Hyunjin frowns.
“I am over Minho. But when we were getting waffles and strawberries together, I was head over heels for him. Just like you are for Seo Changbin.”
Hyunjin ignores that accusation, instead saying, “I’m glad you broke up with Minho. I hated that guy.”
“No, you didn’t.”
No, he didn’t. But when he broke Jisung’s heart and had him crying for three solid days in a row, he vowed to never treat him the same again. It doesn’t matter if Jisung has forgiven his ex and is now on friendly terms with the guy. Hyunjin still can’t stand the sight of him. Prick.
Not failing to notice the way Hyunjin dodged the topic earlier, Jisung nudges him. “So when are you going to admit you have a crush on Changbin?”
Hyunjin scowls, a red flush snaking its way up the back of his neck. “Shut up. The only one here with a crush is you with your little lecture boy. Don’t come at me for anything when you’re still mooning over him.”
“Lee Felix is cute,” he protests. “So what if I acknowledge that?”
“Well – “ He flounders for a response. “Changbin is hot. So I win.”
“That makes no sense whatsoever. But whatever, if you want to run away from the topic, you do you. Let me know when you want to finally admit to your feelings.”
“I won’t,” Hyunjin shoots back just to be petty.
All Jisung does is shrug. “So don’t.”
For some reason, the reply disappoints him. Hyunjin tells himself that it’s just because it’s been a while since he’s properly bickered with Jisung, but it sounds like a lie even to himself. He shakes off the discomfort and tries to tune into the movie they’re watching instead.
Admitting he likes Changbin romantically is scarier than it should be. For months, all he has known is Changbin. At one point, he was so obsessed with him that Jisung locked Hyunjin’s bedroom door and sat on his back to deliver a passionate speech about how his behaviour isn’t healthy goddamnit, it’s one thing to hook-up with someone, it’s another thing to throw away your grades for it. He was seething at the time, but Jisung’s words eventually got through to him and he managed to control his compulsions so that he could approach his interest in Changbin in a much more measured way.
Even then, it was never about Changbin the person. It was about Changbin, the mysterious guy who knew how to break Hyunjin apart with just a few suggestive teases or actions, who had him scrambling for a private corner just to feel Changbin’s hands on his body. It was about the shadowy, undefinable love interest from the books he poured over, not about Changbin himself.
But now… Now it’s about Changbin. Fierce little Seo Changbin who treats Hyunjin with a level of patience and care that hides beneath his dark look. Who fits against the crevices of his body when they’re just dozing in bed, who plays with Hyunjin’s hair and sings under his breath when he’s getting ready in the morning.
“Do – do you want to meet up tomorrow?” Hyunjin says, looking at the boy in question from across the table at the café they’ve chosen for breakfast today.
Changbin frowns, pushing his rice around with his chopsticks. “I can’t do tomorrow night, I have a dinner party with my dad’s business associate’s family. It’s going to be boring, but I can’t skip out on it unfortunately.”
“I’m not talking about the night,” he says. “I meant for lunch or something. Breakfast, I don’t know.”
His eyebrows fall together. “I don’t know any clubs that bring out drinks that early.”
“I don’t mean for drinks,” he says, a little exasperated. Fucking hell, this is hard enough to suggest already, does Changbin have to be so obtuse while he does it? He snatches up his napkin and starts to nervously tear the corners to shreds. “I meant as like… a date or something.”
His voice trails off into something terribly small. The pit in his stomach grows as Changbin only replies with a blink of his eyes, his face unreadable. He feels like shrinking under his gaze, his shoulders drawing together.
At last, Changbin says slowly, “I don’t… understand. Why would we go on a date?”
“I don’t know,” Hyunjin says with a short hysterical laugh. He clamps down on it before it can gather attention, but Changbin’s eyebrows have already flown up. His eyes fall to where Hyunjin’s fingers are nervously shredding apart his napkin. “Why does anyone go on a date? Because they’re – they’re interested in the other person.”
Changbin’s frown doesn’t leave him.
“Hyunjin,” he says like it’s obvious. “We’re not dating.”
Embarrassment floods through him. Cheeks flushing unattractively, he hisses, “I know that.”
“I don’t think you do.”
“One date! I suggested going on one date! Why are you acting like I’ve – I’ve fucking failed my CSAT or something? I’m not dumb!”
“Well, you’re acting like it,” he snaps, his voice as hard as rock. For once, it doesn’t have Hyunjin’s arousal flaring up. All it does is snap his mouth shut and stamp down his defensiveness with shock. “Look, I don’t know where things got lost in translation, but this – this thing between us. It’s not – real. Just because we meet up for sex doesn’t mean we’re actually an item. We’re not dating, we’re just fucking each other.”
Just as quickly as he fell quiet, anger spikes within Hyunjin from the pits of his stomach. It spills out of his mouth like lava from the tip of a volcano, blurring his vision with red. Hyunjin stands up, his chair screeching against the tile flooring.
“You know what, Changbin? Fuck you,” he spits. “For someone who just met up with me to fuck me, you sure did go the fucking extra mile. Pillow-talk, cuddling me after we were done for the night, wining and dining me the morning after. Don’t treat me like I’m dumb for suggesting we go on a proper date when you’re the one sending me mixed signals. Make up your fucking mind about what you want us to be.”
Changbin stands up too, his irises like two shards of obsidian. “There is no us,” he says coldly. “You’re not my boyfriend, Hyunjin. Build a fucking bridge and get over it.”
Hyunjin meets his stare with eyes like fury. Mouth contorting into a snarl, he turns on his heels and storms out of the café.
“You don’t need him,” Jisung says immediately when Hyunjin breaks down in his arms a couple of hours later. “He looks like a fucking garden gnome. You’re not losing out on shit. He is.”
Hyunjin merely sobs harder. “I like garden gnomes.”
“I know,” he sighs, squeezing him close. He smooths Hyunjin’s hair down with a clumsy hand. “It’ll be okay, I promise. It might take a while, but you’re stronger than this. You’ll be okay.”
Hyunjin sniffs, a long wet noise that has Jisung grimace into his hair. “You really think so?”
“Of course I do. You’re the strongest person I know, Hyunjinnie.”
Hyunjin doesn’t feel particularly strong. Sure, he blocks Changbin’s number on his phone and throws himself into other things, but that doesn’t stop him from missing him all the same. From regretting his decision whenever he feels particularly cold with loneliness at night or sees a happy couple pass him in the street.
He helps his dad harvest the vegetables he’s growing in their garden and thinks about Changbin’s complaints about never getting along with his own father or his expectations for him. He pretends not to notice some of the ahjummas stealing sips of alcohol at bingo night and remembers the burn of vodka in his throat when he was fucking Changbin in a toilet stall in Hongdae. He unpacks Jeongin’s bags for him when he moves into his crappy little first year student accommodation and remembers silk sheets crinkling beneath his weight.
It’s like everywhere he goes, there’s a reminder of Changbin and he doesn’t know how to block it out.
“I’m going to stop going out so much,” Hyunjin says after he and Jisung have unpacked their own things. They’ve managed to grab an apartment with a couple of girls that Hyunjin met at Dance Soc; the girls are due to move in tomorrow afternoon, so it’s just the two of them for now. “I’m not sure whether I can cut it out entirely, but I think it’d be a lot healthier for me if I cut it back, even if it’s just a little.”
Jisung smiles at him, his mouth shaped like a heart, and pats the back of his hand. “I think so too.”
True to his words, Hyunjin doesn’t go out as much. He tries to stick to pre-drinks and pub nights with his coursemates, but it still all goes down the drain at the first house party he ends up braving just a couple of weeks into the new academic year. Almost as soon as he walks in, he catches Changbin’s eye from across the room. He immediately looks away, but he can feel eyes trained on his back all night.
In his nervousness, he turns to drinks, hoping the alcohol will ease the pit of snakes that are rolling around in the bottom of his stomach. Noticing this, Jisung sticks to his side, periodically sending him worried glances. Hyunjin waves him off with a lopsided smile, not wanting to dampen his mood when Jisung is already so averse to parties, but Jisung refuses, determined to stick to his side. Not everyone else gets the memo, however, and at some point, Chan sweeps him away.
It doesn’t take much longer for Changbin to find him.
“What do you want?” Hyunjin demands, his nose scrunched up in disdain.
Changbin gives into a small shrug and takes a swig of his beer. “Just wanted to catch up, I guess. It’s been a few weeks.”
“And what?” he dismisses roughly. “What’s it to you?”
He doesn’t say anything, simply swallows another mouthful of his alcohol. Part of Hyunjin wants to bark at him to fuck off if he’s just going to stand there and not say anything. But the bigger part, the part that wakes up with the phantom feeling of a leg and an arm slung over his hip and waist, stays quiet. Stays put.
He drains his bottle, the aftertaste strong and bitter in the cavern of his mouth. Beside him, Changbin is a flickering black candle, quiet and beckoning attention. Like a moth to a flame, Hyunjin turns.
He’s not sure how they get from A to B. One moment, they’re standing side by side in the middle of Song Yuqi’s dining room and the next Hyunjin’s back is slamming against the bathroom door and Changbin is pulling him down to fuse their lips together. The kiss is messy and greedy, though Hyunjin’s not sure who’s feeding off whom here, and a familiar headiness is searing through his veins.
Changbin swipes at the waistband of Hyunjin’s jeans with impatient hands, his tongue still licking into Hyunjin’s mouth with a groan. He manages to tear the top button free and then yanks down the zipper, already reaching in to palm him through his boxers. Hyunjin moans, a high keening note, and from that moment on, there’s no going back.
By the time Changbin clambers up from his knees, Hyunjin’s legs are weak. He stumbles over to the bathtub and sinks onto the edge, trying to catch his breath. Changbin leans over to kiss him anyways, deep and lingering.
When he pulls back, he grins and it is nothing but wicked. “You look good in blonde by the way. I nearly didn’t recognise you when you first walked in.”
Hyunjin manages a glare. “Fuck you, Changbin.”
“We’ll save that for next time,” he says.
“There won’t be a next time.”
He shrugs. “If that’s what you want.”
With another brush of their lips, he unlatches the lock and lets the door fall open. Another couple stumble in, their hands already down each other’s pants. Hyunjin slips out of the room before they accidentally trap him in there with them.
(There is a next time.)
It doesn’t matter how many times Hyunjin goes out. Whether it’s once a week or every single day in a row, if Changbin and alcohol are in the same building as him, they end up falling together sooner or later. He doesn’t even have to be drunk. As soon as one drop of alcohol is in him, his mind and body take that as an excuse to seek out Changbin and see which one of them will cave first. He can’t even blame Changbin when they’re as equally complicit in this.
“Next time,” he vows, “it won’t happen. I swear to god, it won’t happen next time.”
Jisung is a good friend in that he pretends to believe this.
When he stops to think about it, Hyunjin knows why he does it. He’s attached to Changbin: the one who forms in daylight hours with drowsy smiles, humming a tune to start the day. But that Changbin isn’t available to him. All he has is the one he meets in messy house parties, who smirks at Hyunjin like he knows something he doesn’t and fucks him in a stranger’s bathroom, his eyes intently drinking in the way Hyunjin unravels under his touch. He’s an imperfect substitute for the summer boy he remembers, but he’s close enough. And Hyunjin, he… Well, he’s desperate enough to convince himself that close enough is another synonym for good enough.
That doesn’t stop him from feeling like shit the morning after.
One time he even ends up going home with Changbin. Not his real home in Apgujeong-dong, of course, but the student house he shares with a few of his friends. Hyunjin wakes up the next morning to an empty bed and a yellow sticky note attached to a packet of chocolate-coated waffles.
had to head to uni for a meeting with my academic tutor. this is the only edible thing left in the house, make sure you savour it. – scb
He makes sure to leave the waffles exactly where he found them. On his way out, a couple of Changbin’s housemates greet him and he returns it uncomfortably, wanting to get away from there as quickly as possible. Not caring how rude it makes him look, he whips out his phone and fires off a round of texts to Jisung about grabbing some boba tea.
“I hate myself,” Hyunjin announces when Jisung finally arrives at the boba tea place, snuggled into a cosy turtleneck and coat, his mask pulled to just below his mouth. He looks tired but still a damn sight better than Hyunjin does, that’s for sure. “I don’t understand why I keep going back to him. I’m so fucking stupid.”
“Well according to your texts this morning, it was because he wore a muscle tee last night,” Jisung offers.
Hyunjin slams a fist onto the table. It’s a testament to their years’ worth of friendship that Jisung doesn’t even flinch at the sight. He simply flips the menu around to read what it has to offer.
“That fucker knows I like his arms,” Hyunjin says. “That’s why he wore it. He knew I wouldn’t be able to resist him when they’re out and about. I can’t help it if I like seeing how big they look when he carries me around!”
“Can we not go into detail please?” Jisung whines. “I already can’t stand the guy as it is, I don’t need to picture him throwing you around a bed.”
“Who else am I meant to tell? You’re my best friend, you have to listen to my sexcapades.”
“Don’t – don’t call it that,” he says, looking pained. “Please do not repeat that word ever again. On second thought actually, maybe you should repeat it in front of Changbin so this whole thing between the two of you finally stops.”
This thing between us. It’s not – real.
Hyunjin’s mouth sours. He picks up his menu with more aggression than he intends. “I just don’t understand why he even sleeps with me. He says there’s nothing going on between us, but then he can’t leave me alone. It’s like he says one thing and does another, what the fuck is up with that? Who the fuck does that?”
An odd expression flits across Jisung’s face, like his features are trying to fight it off. Frowning, Hyunjin gestures at him to just spit out what he wants to say. After a long pause, Jisung reluctantly gives in.
“I can’t really say I know what’s going on in Changbin’s mind because I don’t know him or understand him, but… you’re kind of doing exactly what you’re angry at him for, Hyunjin. You say you’re not going to go back to him, but then you decide to go to another house party that you know he’s going to be at and drink a little just so you have an excuse to hook up with him. He’s a piece of shit for encouraging it when he knows you like him, but you don’t exactly… tell him to stop? Or discourage it?”
Hyunjin’s stomach lurches like he’s about to be sick. He lowers his menu, unable to meet Jisung’s eyes and stares at the woodwork of their table. Shame crawls up the back of his arms.
“I know,” he says quietly. “I just… I can’t seem to help it. I don’t know how to stop. I don’t know why I find it so hard to stop. I just… can’t.”
“You’re attached to him,” Jisung says. He reaches over to take Hyunjin’s hand and rubs circles into his skin. “And he – I think he’s attached to you too. Not in quite the same way, but enough to exclusively seek you out for the past ten months. It’s not only your fault.”
Tears form in the corners of his eyes. His bottom lip trembling with the effort to keep them at bay, he sniffles and whispers, “I feel like it is.”
“It’s not,” Jisung says firmly. “Sometimes people are just... not very nice. They do things just because they can, even if it ends up hurting someone else. You can have one impression of them and then they turn around and ruin it out of nowhere when you’re least expecting it. It’s not your fault for putting trust in them in the first place, but that doesn’t mean you should let them continue to break that trust.”
For a moment, Hyunjin thinks he sounds like he’s speaking from personal experience. It's a thought that doesn’t make sense because Hyunjin knows everything about Jisung’s love life and it’s been nothing but a small string of picture-perfect romances. But when he looks up, his vision swimming before him, it feels like Jisung might just understand him a little.
Hyunjin blinks the tears away, trying his best to brave a smile.
Two days later, Hyunjin finds out why Jisung sounds like he’s speaking from personal experience. It happens when he turns his housekey into the lock for their apartment and the door swings open from the inside to reveal Lee Felix. The two of them blink at each other in surprise. In the seconds it takes for Hyunjin to comprehend the fact that Lee Felix is in his apartment wearing Jisung’s hoodie with several hickeys littered along the column of his neck, Felix has already recovered and is smiling energetically despite the lazy, satisfied look in his eyes.
“Hi!” he chirps. “Aren’t you attending the Dance Soc meeting tonight?”
Hyunjin is still reeling from the sight of Felix in Jisung’s favourite Supreme hoodie. “Uh, no. I have a pretty busy day on Mondays so I’m too tired to go tonight.”
“Fair enough,” he says brightly. “I’ll just be off then. See you later!”
He steps to the side to let him pass with a stupefied look. “Yeah, I’ll – I’ll see you later…”
When Jisung emerges from his bedroom some two hours later, Hyunjin turns an accusatory finger on him. “You slept with Lee Felix and you didn’t tell me!”
Jisung doesn’t look particularly fazed at being found out. He just fills up the kettle and sets it to boil so he can have a cup of cheap ramen. Hyunjin feels incredibly offended at the fact that his performance is apparently not worthy of his full attention. Even as he delivers a dramatic spiel about Jisung’s neck looking like it’s been mauled – because Jesus fucking Christ if he thought Felix’s neck was a sight earlier, it has nothing on how marked up Jisung is – Jisung seems more bored than anything.
“How dare you,” he says. “You’re dating Lee Felix and you didn’t even think to tell me? What happened to ‘oh, it’s nothing big, Hyunjin, I just think he’s cute, that’s all’. I can’t believe you hid this from me! I tell you all about when I sleep with Changbin!”
Despite the playfully dramatic manner he delivers the accusation with, he actually feels pretty hurt. He can’t remember a time where he and Jisung didn’t know everything about each other. To think that Jisung has been concealing something so big from him genuinely devastates him. He can’t help but think it’s directly related to Hyunjin’s mess of a situation with Changbin, a fact that Jisung only seems to prove when he deadpans:
“Believe me, I wish you wouldn’t.”
Another pinprick of hurt flows through his skin. Hyunjin bats it away in favour of a passionate retort of, “You love it.”
“I really don’t,” Jisung says, grimacing. “Also, I’m not dating Felix.”
It makes absolutely no sense for Jisung to come out with a statement like that. Jisung is all sunshine and rainbows and fairytales with sappy endings. Okay maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration but his point still stands: Jisung doesn’t do casual hook-ups.
But apparently that’s exactly what has happened with Felix. While Hyunjin was busy with Changbin last Friday night, Jisung found himself tucked away in a little corner of Chan’s bedroom with Lee Felix, the two of them passing hours just talking to each other. And soon talking to Felix became kissing Felix which became sleeping with Felix. The next morning, Jisung woke up to an empty bed, much like Hyunjin did, and assumed Felix scarpered before he could wake up. Or at least, he believed that until they saw each other in class this morning and cleared up the misunderstanding… which somehow led to them sleeping together again.
Hyunjin doesn’t know how to process this. He doesn’t think he ever will.
The thing is that Jisung is not someone who regards relationships lightly. Whenever he feels something, he commits to it 100% whether it’s a friendship, a relationship or a rivalry. Hyunjin can’t imagine him ever being okay with something as casual as friends with benefits, but that’s clearly where Jisung is heading with Felix if the private smile that plays on his lips suggests anything.
His first instinct is to say no. To pull Jisung close and hide him away from people who might hurt him, from people like Minho or Felix or Changbin. He doesn’t want him to experience even half of the turmoil Hyunjin is struggling through, all because he fell for someone who didn’t follow suit, who only sat at the edge of the cliff and watched as he tried to scramble his way back up the rocks.
As much as he wants to, he can’t. Jisung is his own person and he can make his own decisions. And Felix… he’s a lot nicer than Changbin is, that’s for sure.
Hyunjin sighs. “Look, I’m not going to be a hypocrite and tell you that you can’t do something like this when I’m the mess who keeps going back to Changbin the second there’s a drop of alcohol in me.”
He pauses to wince at how bad it sounds before he pushes forward. “But speaking as your best friend, I’d just like to tell you that these kind of things can get really messy. And if you ever feel like it’s hurting you, it’s better to just cut things off before you get too attached…. But as long as you know what you’re getting into, I guess I’m happy for you. Just make sure you don’t do anything you’re not comfortable with.”
At the end of the day, that’s all he can really say. Sometimes being a good friend means letting someone you love make their mistakes and then being there to help them pick up the pieces afterwards. He hopes he won’t have to do that for Jisung and Felix, but he can’t be certain he won’t.
Jisung reaches over to squeeze Hyunjin’s hand. Smiling sadly, Hyunjin flips his over so that their fingers can slide together properly. He makes a small prayer that things work out for them.
“FELIX, YOU PIECE OF SHIT, I WAS IN THE LEAD!”
“Not anymore, motherfucker! How does it feel to be in second place, kissing my ass?”
“Oh, suck my dick, Lee Felix.”
He shrugs, still bent low over his controller. “I mean, if you insist, but it’ll have to wait until after I win.”
“If you think I’m going anywhere near you today if you win – oh, for fuck’s sake.” Jisung throws his controller onto the sofa as Felix’s avatar crosses the finish line. The boy next to him shrieks with delight, throwing his hands into the air in victory as Jisung sulks beside him. “This game is bullshit.”
“You’re just not very good at it,” Felix says, leaning over to smash his small palms against Jisung’s cheeks. He smiles, eyes mischievous and trained on Jisung’s mouth. He nuzzles their noses together and then presses a few consolation kisses against Jisung’s protruding lips. “It’s okay, Sungie. You’ll get better eventually.”
“I don’t want to play this game ever again,” Jisung grumbles, puckering his mouth for more kisses.
Laughing, Felix gladly delivers. Hyunjin wonders if either of them remember that he is sat right next to them and was also a competitor in the game.
Grimacing, he averts his gaze. It lands on the sight of his crestfallen avatar in last place and something about it feels like a metaphor for his life. As though he’s always running for some distant inconceivable goal, only to end up fumbling for last place. Once upon a time, the goal was acting on tv which he quickly put out of his mind when he entered university and realised that there are far better actors than him in the game. More recently, it was Changbin and how Hyunjin wanted more from him than he was willing to offer.
Wants, really. That’s a more accurate operative word.
Finally remembering that he is also in the room, Jisung and Felix snap out of their little bubble and pull him out his thoughts as easily as parting through water. He turns to face them with a genuine smile, merely amused by how long it took them to realise that he’s still here.
It’s easy to smile around Jisung and Felix. They’re endearing in completely separate ways: Jisung loud and larger than life, Felix shy and earnest. And they’re so far gone for each other, it’s impossible not to notice. Hyunjin doesn’t know how they’re not dating already. They’re already ninety percent of the way there.
It turns out that Hyunjin needn’t have worried about Jisung. Whatever he has going on with Felix has been good for them. Sure, they’re about as capable at keeping their hands off each other as Hyunjin and Changbin are, but sex is just one facet of their relationship. They’re also friends. Ones who understand each other, who genuinely care for one another, who are happy just hanging out and doing something the other person loves simply because the other person loves it.
Seeing the way they are together makes Hyunjin realise a few things. He thinks about how Jisung might be getting that cheesy romcom love story he’s always wanted and how Hyunjin’s own situation is such a far cry from that, how it once excited him but now only weighs him down. It’s easy to be fascinated by relationships that are coloured grey in novels that are only meant to serve as a form of entertainment. To live through it is another feeling entirely. Books never capture just how heavily it weighs on your soul to have something so unhealthy consume your life.
For the first time since January, Hyunjin thinks he might genuinely want to break free.
“I want to stop this,” Hyunjin says.
The scene is so familiar to the one from summer. The two of them are sat opposite each other in a quaint little café that’s situated on a street corner just a fifteen minutes’ walk from campus. It’s sunny outside which is a shame considering how most students have locked themselves inside to study for their mid-term exams as these begin next week. The light streams through the windows to illuminate their profiles completely.
Changbin’s hands are curled around his mug of coffee so tightly that the tips of his fingers have turned white. His face betrays none of the same emotion.
Even still, there’s something infinitely gentler about him this afternoon. Whenever he’s in the light of day, his sharp edges are smoothed out into something much more benign. The corners of his mouth are soft with youth and the cut of his face isn’t quite so harsh. He’s in a bright pink t-shirt with drop sleeves. He looks smaller than usual like Hyunjin could fold him into his arms without having to relinquish control.
“All of it,” Hyunjin adds when Changbin doesn’t say anything. “I want you to delete my number. I’ll delete yours too because it’s only fair if I do. And I don’t want to sleep with you at parties anymore. I don’t want a handjob or a blowjob or even a kiss or a conversation. I won’t go up to you for one, but if I somehow get drunk enough that I do, I want you to push me off. I want you to respect me enough to push me off.”
A crack appears across the face of Changbin’s cold front. He drops his eyes to his coffee with a mirthless breath of laughter. “What if I don’t want to stop?”
“I don’t care.”
He pushes his tongue against the inside of his cheek. “What if I want to go on a date with you? A proper one at a proper restaurant where all we do is eat food and I listen to you talk about your day.”
“I don’t care.”
He drags his eyes back up to meet Hyunjin’s eyes and the expression in it is one Hyunjin has never seen in him. “What if I’m in love with you?”
And the thing is – Hyunjin can tell he means it. He didn’t understand a lot about Changbin and he still doesn’t, but he knows enough to know that Changbin is honest. He doesn’t bother with lies and prefers to deliver his truths as they are however uncomfortable they may be to hear. Hyunjin doesn’t know what could’ve changed between August and now, but he does know that it doesn’t affect his decision.
Hands curling into loose fists on top of the table, he whispers, “I don’t care.”
Changbin laughs again and this time, the sound is harsh and a little broken. “You don’t care? Three months ago, you were ringing me up every other day because you missed me and you wanted to date me and now you’re ready to just call everything off? As if you weren’t just as eager to find me this entire semester as I was to find you. I wasn’t the only one coming onto someone here, Hyunjin. You did it just as much.”
“I never said I didn’t go looking for you at parties,” Hyunjin says, making sure his voice stays level and calm. “I said I want to stop.”
“You’re in love with me,” Changbin hisses and glass shards glimmer in his eyes.
Hyunjin shakes his head. “No, I’m not. I thought I might be, but I’m not.”
And that’s his truth. For the longest time, he really did think he was in love with Changbin. He didn’t admit it out loud for fear of giving it power by speaking it into existence. But the belief lurked deep inside of him all the same, powering his behaviour for the past few months.
And maybe it could’ve eventually blossomed into something close enough to love, at least enough to convince him for a while that this was the real deal. Truth be told, a part of him knows that the Changbin he knew in the holidays – his fierce summer boy, his partially-solved puzzleset – was someone Hyunjin would've grown to properly love had he been given the chance.
But he wasn’t and so he hasn't.
“Bullshit,” Changbin whispers roughly. “You’re in love with me. I’m in love with you. The two of us can’t stay away from each other. We can’t stop thinking about each other or stop touching each other. It doesn’t matter how far we go, at the end of the day we'll always come back to – “
“That’s not love,” Hyunjin says.
“Then what,” he bursts out. He stands up in a sudden flare of movement, his chest heaving as he struggles to get himself under control. He blinks rapidly and each beat of his eyelashes only fractures the glass in his eyes some more. “What the fuck is it then? If you know all the answers, then give them to me!”
Hyunjin makes sure to stay sitting down, his head tilted upwards slightly to afford Changbin his full attention. If he’s going to end this, he’s going to end it properly.
“I don’t know what it’s like for you,” he says quietly. “I can’t read your mind and tell you what’s going on in there. But I do know myself and I know now that I – I can’t have been in love with you because that’s… that’s not how love should feel like. You don’t lose your entire identity just because you love someone. You don’t exist only in relation to a boy you barely know.”
“You know me,” Changbin whispers brokenly, a tear spilling onto his cheek.
Hyunjin looks at him with a sad smile. “No. I don’t think I do.”
After Changbin has walked away, Hyunjin remains in his seat for five minutes. He stares out of the window, eyes trained on the last place he saw Changbin in the crowd. When he’s satisfied he won’t return to try to change Hyunjin’s mind, he lets himself bury his head in his hands and bursts into tears.
It’s one thing to know that you’re making the right decision. It’s another thing entirely to follow through with it.
Even now, he knows it would be so easy to get his hands on Changbin’s number again. So easy to go to the next party someone throws, knock back a beer and pretend like the pathetic excuse for a buzz in his system is the reason why he’s kissing along Changbin’s throat. He’s done it for the better part of a year, it’s an old habit by now.
But he won’t. He meant it when he said he wants to stop this. He’s already lost eleven months of his life to an obsession with a boy who isn’t good for his health or mind. He doesn’t need to lose any more.
A few minutes into his crying session, his phone chimes with a series of new texts. Sniffling, Hyunjin lifts his head from his arms and wipes his eyes dry to read them. They’re all from Jeongin, each text progressively more panicked as he details how Jisung and his new boyfriend are gross and shameless and just nearly defiled the university library because they can’t keep it in their pants. Hyunjin lets out a watery laugh as he texts his brother his consolations before he opens up his chat with Jisung.
[14:20] innie told me u nearly shagged ur boyfriend in the library
[14:21] i mean, more power to u but
[14:21] !!!! BOYFRIEND????
[14:22] I FUCKING KNEW U COULDN’T DO ANYTHING CASUAL WITH FELIX, DIDN’T I FUCKING SAY SO
[14:23] but on a real note i’m v happy for u sungie, u guys are v cute together
After he sends the last message off, he hesitates, staring down at the slightly cracked screen of his iPhone. If he mentions this now, there’s no going back. His conversation with Changbin today becomes real, something that exists outside of their memories and their control. Hyunjin can be held accountable for his future actions and if he ever returns to Changbin, it’ll be with the guilt that someone outside of the situation knows how badly he’s regressed. His thumbs hover the keyboard, uncertain.
[14:26] in completely unrelated news i just properly called things off with changbin so pls prepare some ben & jerries to comfort me tonight, i will defo need it lmao xxx
He pockets his phone, wipes the remaining tears off his face and leaves the café.